1 March 2002

Tests spread TB, say anti-cullers

By Robert Davies

Wales correspondent

ANTI-badger cull pressure groups are urging government to halt cattle movements from the 26,000 farms awaiting routine TB tests and to rule out further badger culls.

"I urge farmers to wait for results of current trials," said Elaine King, chief executive of the 15,000-member National Federation of Badger Groups. "The federation is convinced that TB was spread by cattle-to-cattle transmission and DEFRA has to halt all cattle movements from the 26,000 farms awaiting TB tests."

Ms King said: "The jury is still out on whether badgers can pass TB to cattle. The claims that they can is a red herring that is the legacy of MAFF propaganda."

Glyn Williams, Monmouth county NFU chairman, speaking at a farmer meeting in the county, acknowledged culling badgers was sensitive but plenty of evidence suggested they spread TB. The common sense and humane approach would be to cull infected badgers rather than abandon them to a slow and painful death, he argued.

David Davies, Monmouths Welsh assembly member, who backs NFU-Cymrus bid for better control of infected badgers, agreed the problem was too serious to wait for the result of investigations into the role of badgers in spreading the disease.

The resumption of routine testing after foot-and-mouth revealed that the fast multiplying badger population had spread TB from infection hotspots to many new farms, he said.

Reactors have been found recently on more than 40 local farms, including 13 with no previous cases. Farmers at the meeting, two of whom had lost more than 70 cattle, and Usk-based vet Bob Stevenson claimed it was illogical to have slaughtered 30,000 cattle reactors in the UK since 1996 while not tackling the problem of TB-carrying badgers.

Mr Davies agreed to arrange for a delegation of Monmouthshire NFU members to lobby the assembly, and Carwyn Jones, the rural affairs minister.

Dai Davies, NFU Cymrus deputy president, who farms near a TB hotspot in Carmarthenshire, warned that controlling an outbreak could take a long time and involve large uncompensated costs. More money should be spent on finding better testing procedures and developing vaccines, he said.

Concerned about what he describes as "an alarming increase" in TB in Wales, Alan Morris FUW public relations director is inviting National Assembly members and Welsh MPs to visit a badly affected north Powys farm.

"Politicians are not treating what is a major animal health threat as seriously as they should," said Mr Morris. "More resources are needed to ensure that everything possible is done in TB hotspots to prevent the spread of the disease to other areas.

&#8226 For more on bovine TB, see Livestock p35 &#42

Assembly member David Davies (right)wants infected badgers controlled.